Global air cargo rates and volumes have continued their gradual overall decline in the last few weeks despite a broadly stable capacity environment, the latest figures from WorldACD Market Data reveal, as air and ocean freight demand experience a slack period after two relentlessly frenetic years.

Looking at week 29 (July 18 - 24) in isolation, worldwide chargeable weight increased slightly, by +1% compared with the week before, and the average worldwide rate decreased slightly, based on the more than 350,000 weekly transactions covered by WorldACD’s data and analysis of the main international air cargo lanes.

But comparing the last two weeks with the preceding two weeks (2Wo2W), average worldwide rates decreased -2% and chargeable weight fell -6%, while overall capacity remained stable.

Chargeable weight from Middle East & South Asia to Europe and Asia Pacific went down particularly strongly in the last two weeks (-19% and -17%, respectively). But there were also substantial drops in outbound tonnages from the key Asia Pacific region to various markets, including a -9% drop to Middle East & South Asia, a -8% fall to North America, and a -4% decline to Europe in the two weeks to 24 July.

Overall outbound chargeable weight from Asia Pacific dropped by -5%, compared with the previous two weeks, and is down -17% compared with the same two weeks last year. Outbound chargeable weight from Europe also dropped by -5%, compared with the previous two weeks, and Africa outbound volumes were down -14% in the same period.

After several weeks of volume decline, outbound chargeable weight from North America appears to have stabilised, although it remains well below (-8%) its levels this time last year.

For the overall global market, compared with last year the last two weeks showed a worldwide rate increase of +14%, despite a weight decline of -9% and a capacity increase of +6%, as higher fuel surcharges continue to inflate overall air cargo prices relative to their levels last year. But that +14% rate differential compared with last year is also slowly diminishing, down from +19% just a month ago.

As one senior logistics executive highlighted this month: “This is what we used to call slack season, and that is now back. It just seems apocalyptic because for the first time (in two years) we’re seeing a decrease in volumes. But if you look at it compared to previous years prior to the pandemic, trade is still strong and volumes are still high.”